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President apologizes again for 228 Incident

2013/02/28 15:59:11

Taipei, Feb. 28 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou apologized on behalf of the nation for the 228 Incident of 1947 once again Thursday, the 66th anniversary of the tragic event.

Ma then made a deep bow to all those present at a commemorative ceremony held in the northeastern county of Yilan to pay tribute to the victims and their families.

According to some estimates, tens of thousands of Taiwanese, many of them among the country's intellectual elite, are estimated to have been killed by the Kuomintang (KMT) in the brutal crackdown on anti-government uprisings that began Feb. 28, 1947 -- 16 months after Japanese colonial rule of the island ended. The incident partly led to nearly four decades of martial law in Taiwan.

Ma pledged at the ceremony that his administration will uphold rule of law, protect human rights and promote cross-Taiwan Strait peace to prevent any recurrence of such a horror.

When the 228 Incident broke out in 1947, Ma noted, a civil war between the KMT and the Communist Party of China was also underway on the Chinese mainland.

Ma said he believes that this factor contributed to the KMT's mishandling of the uprising against its rule in Taiwan.

"Many things are not handled properly during wartime, not to mention proper protection of human rights," Ma said.

"And that's why I have spared no efforts to improve relations across the Taiwan Strait since taking office some five years ago," Ma said.

"Maintaining peace and order in society is very important to ensure that there is no recurrence of any tragedy similar to the 228 Incident," the president added.

In his speech, Ma also promised to ask national education research institutes to study how to increase the ratio of information on the 228 Incident in school textbooks.

Local people need to increase their knowledge about the incident and the ensuing martial law-era White Terror suppression of political dissidents because "we should face history as it stands and should reflect on those tragedies to avoid committing similar errors," Ma explained.

During his 1993-1996 term as justice minister, Ma recalled, he was ordered to draft a statute on compensation for the 228 Incident victims or their families.

"Since then, I have treated the 228 Incident as objectively as possible and have been engaging the event's victims and their families with empathy," Ma said, adding that this attitude has allowed him to make good friends with many of them.

Over the past two decades, he went on, the government has taken many measures, including legislation, making apologies, erecting monuments, setting up memorial halls and designating the day as a national holiday, in an effort to remedy past mistakes and heal the wounds of history.

"Through these efforts, we have gradually emerged from the shadow of the incident. Still, I fully understand that these moves are hardly enough to heal the pain and sorrow endured by the victims and their families," Ma said.

Therefore, he went on, he insisted when he assumed the presidency in May 2008 on the completion of the then-unfinished 228 National Memorial Hall. Since its completion, the hall has been used as a bastion for continued research into the incident and for public education and service.

Moreover, Ma continued, his administration has enshrined two United Nations-sponsored human rights covenants -- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- as part of the country's efforts to underscore its commitment to rule of law and the protection of human rights.

In 2012, Ma said, the government published the country's first human rights report in accordance with the U.N.-initiated form and style.

"We have even invited 10 international human rights experts to screen our report," Ma said.

"This sets a rare example in the world. Although Taiwan is not a U.N. member, it is voluntarily observing U.N. standards in reviewing its human rights protection measures in order to bring its human rights conditions on a par with the world mainstream," Ma said.

The 10 international human rights experts arrived in Taipei a week earlier and are expected to finalize their review soon, he added.

Many government officials, including Premier Jiang Yi-huah, also attended the commemorative ceremony.

It marked the first time that the central government has held the 228 Incident commemorative event outside the capital, Taipei.

A pro-independence activist, Wang Hsien-ji, staged a protest at the ceremony, urging Ma to release former President Chen Shui-bian, who is serving a 20-year jail term for corruption during his time in office.

Wang was taken away by security personnel for heckling Ma during the ceremony even after the president listened to his petition before the start of the ceremony.

(By Kelven Huang and Sofia Wu)
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